Marrakech Dwellings – Dar Nour El Houda
If you have never been to Marrakech, allow me to enlighten you on an important secret that you absolutely must know before you go there – No map apps work here (!!). Well, they work… but they are all inaccurate in some measure. Trust me, I tried six of them, offered on both AppStore and PlayStore. The Medina (downtown Marrakech, s’il vous plait) is a complex maze of tiny alleys and narrow passageways that only allow for pedestrians and two-wheelers.
So picture this, I have landed at the Marrakech airport at 11:00 pm after an odious layover in Madrid, tired and exhausted from lugging my stuff around and standing in the Customs and Immigration line for over 2 hours, ready to drop. I get picked up at the airport and delivered at the middle of an empty, dark alley with closed storefronts, the odd cat loitering about. If it wasn’t for Noureddine, who liaised with my driver and reassured me over email that he was going to pick me up at said-alleyway, I would probably still be wandering about trying to find Dar Nour El Houda.
I don’t want to take up more time but because I’m the boss around here and I can babble for as long as I like, I’m going to wax poetic about just how awesome the folks at Dar Nour El Houda are. If it wasn’t for my host Noureddine, my experience at Marrakech would be seriously lacking. I almost wept when he had me settled in and brought me some mint tea and Moroccan cookies. The offer mint-tea with tea biscuits and dates is a common gesture of hospitality in North Africa, and prevalent almost as a rule when you first meet someone. I must have consumed hundreds of cups of mint tea during my week-long stint in Morocco, but my host worrying about my empty stomach and taking my safety and well-being personally really plucked at my heartstrings.
Dar Nour El Houda (Home of Nour and Houda (light and guidance)) is a low-key bed-&-breakfast style home that is managed by Noureddine (as of September 2018). Go here for simplicity and their fantastic hospitality. I was provided with a hand-drawn map, with printed pictures to help me find my way back to the Dar from the Djema-Al-Fnaa square (commercial hub). Then, they walk with you to the main square and show you major hotspots along the way.
I’ve lived and traveled extensively in India and the middle-east and at the cost of sounding pompous, I think I can navigate complicated old cities and manage aggressive local peddlers deftly. My reality-check was swift and delivering in Marrakech, and if it wasn’t for that first friendly walk to the square with Noureddine, I would have had to resort to being a tourist, tipping everyone along the way for giving me (wrong) directions. The Dar itself is located in a discreet passageway in the old city, but once you go in, it’s a tiny oasis of peace and homeliness. Breakfast is a traditional Moroccan affair served on the rooftop, as is custom, complete with Berber pancakes and fruits marinated in orange juice. The space itself is casually decorated with books and plants in little corners.
The upkeep may seem tardy, some areas dusty for lack of love, but I hope you will give this humble, quiet place a chance on your next trip to Marrakech. It is incredibly easy on the wallet, quietly tucked away in the hub-bub of the old city but managed conscientiously and attentively for everyone who visits them. I definitely felt at home, loved and cared for in the span of my short stay here.